Anne Marie Pace | The Children’s Book Review
Groundhog Day Books, Valentine’s Day Books, and Beyond
Most afternoons, my three school-aged kids got off the school bus carrying the same things they got on the bus with that morning: backpack, lunchbox, maybe a jacket. But there was a day about twelve years ago when they each came home with a tree. It was Arbor Day, and a nature foundation had given each child at our elementary school a twelve-inch twig (aka tree) wrapped in plastic that needed to be planted immediately. I knew very little about Arbor Day, but I knew from looking at my kids’ excited faces that I needed to fetch a shovel.
After the twigs, I mean trees, were planted in their holes, I asked the kids what they knew about Arbor Day. Apparently, whatever presentation the tree people had given had not taken root. That day we resorted to Wikipedia, which worked just fine for our purposes. But I know how much more my kids would have enjoyed, and learned from, a book.
Since I write children’s books, this won’t surprise you, but in my experience as both a reader and a parent of readers, books enhance just about everything. (I’m sure I’m not the only mom who pulled out a copy of Ezra Jack Keats’s A SNOWY DAY on the first snowy day of the winter.)
It also won’t surprise you, that I, like many of you, think holidays are wonderful, simply because I love to celebrate and have fun. I love hearing the doorbell ring for trick-or-treating, I love baking special dishes at Thanksgiving, and I love decorating for the winter holidays.
So if books bring depth to our daily experiences and holidays are awesome, it’s not much of a leap to suggest that books about seasonal holidays are among the most fun books to share with kids. Most of us probably don’t need books to explain the basics of the holidays we typically celebrate in our homes. But there are plenty of holidays we may not have celebrated since our own elementary school days, but are part of our shared culture.
As kids learn about shared culture, they’ll have lots of questions. Why do we care if the Groundhog sees his shadow? Why do we wear green on St. Patrick’s Day? Why do we plant trees on Arbor Day? It’s true that the answers to these can be found on the internet—but it’s so much more rewarding to share a book than to do a Google search. After all, a Google search doesn’t give us a story.
But even more than enhancing our own holiday experiences with stories about our own holidays, I see seasonal holiday books as a way to build community. First, because we don’t all celebrate the same holidays (a divide that seems most clear in looking at religious holidays), holiday books about cultures or beliefs other than our own are a way to understand our friends and neighbors. And second, because not all holidays are shared experiences, it’s important to use the holidays we do share to build relationships.
A classroom may be filled with kids who celebrate different holidays in December; we can use that fact to learn about each other’s beliefs, values, and customs. And then in February, everyone can watch Punxsutawney Phil pop out of his hole and send each other Valentine’s Day cards together.
I probably should have gone to the library that afternoon twelve years ago to find some Arbor Day or tree books instead of relying on Google. We could have read A TREE IS NICE by Janice May Udry and Marc Simont, or maybe Dr. Seuss’s THE LORAX. That didn’t happen, at least not that day. But I’m happy to report that two of the three trees are still going strong, just like my kids’ love for books. And holidays. And holiday books.
Written by Anne Marie Pace
Illustrated by Christopher Denise
Publisher’s Synopsis: GROUNDHUG DAY, by Vampirina Ballerina author Anne Marie Pace with illustrations by New York Times bestselling Christopher Denise, is utterly heartwarming and sure to be a hit, whether readers are bursting for spring or snuggling up for six more weeks of winter. The festive combination of Valentine’s Day and Groundhog Day makes this picture book a sweet standout for holiday reading.
Moose is having a Valentine’s Day party, and all his friends are so excited! Everyone except Groundhog, that is. If Groundhog sees his shadow outside, he’ll hide in his hole for six more weeks and miss the party!
Determined to help their friend join them, Moose, Squirrel, Bunny, and Porcupine put their heads together and come up with a plan. But will it be enough to get Groundhog out to play? This story celebrates friends who look out for each other through thick and thin and all year round.
With Denise’s cozy illustrations paired with Pace’s laugh-out-loud writing, GROUNDHUG DAY will have kids and grown-ups alike chuckling at their antics and volunteering their own solutions to help Groundhog!
Ages 3-5 | Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | 2017 | ISBN-13: 9781484753569
About the Author
ANNE MARIE PACE is the author of the Vampirina Ballerina series, soon to be a show on Disney Jour, as well as several other picture books. She lives in Charlottesville, VA, with her husband and four children, most of whom like hugs. Visit her online at www.annemariepace.com and on Twitter @AnneMariePace.
The article Why Reading Kids Books About Seasonal Holidays is a Good Thing was written by Anne Marie Pace, author of Groundhug Day (Disney-Hyperion, 2017). For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Anne Marie Pace, Christopher Denise, Groundhogs, Humorous Books, Moose, Picture Book, and Valentine’s Day Books.